160, November 2000
Bulletin no. 160
2. Victims' Congress wants the world to hear [text unavailable]
4. Seeking the truth about G30S [text unavailable]
5. G30S, an army intelligence operation [text unavailable]
6. Contribution by Coen Holtzappel [text unavailable]
7. Kontras founder gets major rights award [text unavailable]
9. Hawk aircraft terrorise West Papua [text unavailable]
10. Police attack on flag-raisers in Wamena [text unavailable]
12. La'o Hamutuk: Monitoring the Transition [text unavailable]
13. Police interfering in labour disputes [text unavailable]
Tens of thousands of people from all parts of Aceh responded to a call to attend a Mass Rally for Peace issued by SIRA, the organisation which advocates the holding of a referendum in Aceh, but the vast majority were not allowed to reach their destination. The security forces were under orders to prevent people from travelling to Banda Aceh and opened fire in many districts, killing dozens of people.
The Mass Rally for Peace was scheduled to take place on 11 November, to mark the first anniversary of the mass rally in Banda Aceh on 8 November 1999 when a crowd of up to half a million converged on the provincial capital. On that occasion, the event proceeded peacefully. There were no attempts to prevent anyone from travelling to Banda Aceh and the security forces in the capital stood back and left security to stewards appointed by SIRA, the Centre of Information for a Referendum in Aceh. This time round however, things were very different.
The plan was to hold a mass prayer in the precincts of the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh on Friday, 10 November to be followed by a Mass Rally for Peace on the next day.
Police under instructions to halt vehicles
On 5 November, the Aceh chief of police, Chairul Rasyidi issued an instruction to all units to use all means at their disposal to prevent people from travelling to Banda Aceh. Security operations in Aceh are under the overall command of POLRI, the police force, while regular territorial army units as well as special 'non-organic' forces regularly take part in operations.
The security forces were ordered to:
* Patrol all public transport terminals.
* Check passengers on all vehicles, private or public, including their personal possessions.
* Vehicles travelling in the direction of Banda Aceh should be immobilised with gunfire to flatten the tires.
* Sweeping operations should be conducted by all command posts to ensure that no public or private means of transport get through to Banda Aceh.
What actually happened went much farther than this. At the start of the week, people from outlying locations started to travel only to be confronted by units of Brimob, backed up by army troops. In many places they fired into the air, then shot at the crowds, killing or wounding unarmed and defenceless civilians. Thousands of people who tried to make their way to Banda Aceh by sea, mostly on small fishing vessels, were also shot at and ordered to turn back.
As the week proceeded, the number of casualties mounted by the day. Reports were being received by human rights activists in Banda Aceh, claiming that there had been many deaths in a number of locations in all the seven districts of the province.
These reports suggested that the death toll had reached 178 by Friday, 10 November. However, in most cases, there was no detailed confirmation of the casualties.
Kontras-Aceh, the Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence, were more cautious and would only confirm casualties - deaths, wounded and detentions - based on detailed verification by witnesses, with the names of the victims, the circumstances of the incident and the security units involved. By the end of the week, they had monitored over 30 deaths. The final death toll is likely to be much higher but since the incidents occurred across such a wide area, it could take weeks before the final death toll is ascertained.
Brutality on a massive scale
As reports of what was happening everywhere started coming in, it became clear that the Indonesian armed forces were determined to prevent the Mass Rally from taking place, even if this meant confronting the entire population. In the event, they only helped to prove that almost the entire population of Aceh was on the move, wanting to go to Banda Aceh to attend the Mass Rally. The idea of supporting a referendum, as the only peaceful way to resolve the question of Aceh's future status, has clearly won overwhelming support in Aceh and has almost certainly been reinforced by the latest events.
The methods used included:
* Opening fire on convoys, firing in the air and ordering people to turn back.
* Immobilising means of transport by setting fire to vehicles which were forced to stop, ordering drivers to leave their vehicles in police premises or armycommand compounds, flattening tires with gunshots, and confiscatingdriving licences.
* Confiscating and destroying food supplies.
* Forcing people to alight from vehicles and strip down to their underwear, and subjecting them to other forms of humiliation.
* Blowing up bridges to prevent people from continuing with their journeys.
* Arresting people.
* Halting and turning back people who try to approach the shore near the centre of Banda Aceh on boats.
* Encircling villages and conducting raids to warn people not to depart for Banda Aceh.
One columnist who spoke to people who managed to reach Banda Aceh from Pidie wrote:
'Having been turned back on the main roads by the police's elite Mobile Brigade (Brimob) unit and the Indonesian military (TNI), they had travelled in trucks, buses and cars on the little known back roads of this beautiful rainforested province. One man said: "It took us seven hours to travel 80 kms from Saree. We tried to get through on the main road but Brimob turned us away and even shot the tires of some of the vehicles.
'A woman, two young children clinging to her, told me: "The military shot my husband in the rice field. Our convoy refused to go back and they (Brimob) started to shoot in the air. We all ran. Then they began to shoot at us. Several were injured and my husband died. We had no weapons, we are only farmers. They have the guns. I came with the convoy because my husband is already dead. What could I do? He would have wished me to come."
'I myself witnessed people being shot at as they ran through rice paddies for cover, being made to sit in the blistering sun and ordered at gunpoint, alternatively to sing and pray, and tires of vehicles being shot at. This is the reality of democracy, Indonesian style.' [Jakarta Post, 14 November]
Gus Dur tries to halt violence
After five days of brutality, President Abdurrahman Wahid commented on the events in Aceh for the first time. Infuriated by the shooting to death of so many people, he said he would summon TNI commander Admiral Widodo and army chief of staff General Endriartono Sutarto to ask why the security forces were shooting people in Aceh, 'just like the Dutch used to do. Do they think I'm afraid to sack anyone?' he asked rhetorically. He did indeed summon the TNI chiefs as well as the military commander and police chief in Aceh, to halt the shooting and allow the Acehnese to proceed with the rally in Banda Aceh. However, no one has been sacked.
Since June, the police force has been under the direct authority of the President so it should have been quite straightforward for Gus Dur, as Wahid is popularly known, to have stepped in much earlier and at least sacked the provincial chief of police whose instruction led to the brutality, but no such thing happened.
This raises the crucial question about who is determining policy in Aceh. If not Gus Dur, then is it Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose closeness to top generals is well known and who opposed Gus Dur's conciliatory policy towards West Papua? As is her style, she has said nothing, but halfway through the week preceding the Mass Rally, Minister-Coordinator for Political and Security Affairs, retired Lt. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on television that the rally for peace in Banda Aceh had not been banned. He later modified this statement by saying that 'if it is used to advocate separatism, it should be stopped'.
Hundreds of thousands reach Banda Aceh
By 11 November, hundreds of thousands of people had gathered in Banda Aceh, the majority of whom were from the city itself or from the district of Aceh Besar which surrounds the capital. Thousands had managed to get through the blockade but tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of people were still trapped by blockades in many parts of Aceh. The final Mass Rally was postponed for several days while speeches condemning the brutality were delivered. The crowds said they wanted to remain in the city centre until the rest of the population could reach Banda Aceh. But this plan was abandoned because of insuperable logistical problems and the people agreed to disperse and return home. On the following day, they rallied again and it was apparently the intention of the organisers to have rallies each day.
General strike called
At the final rally on 14 November, a decision adopted by leaders from all the districts was read out to rapturous applause.
The first point called for the withdrawal of all the security forces, army as well as police.
The second called for intervention by the UN or foreign countries to resolve the political, social and humanitarian problems in Aceh.
Point three demanded that the Government of Indonesia restore Aceh's sovereignty which had been unlawfully transferred to Indonesia as a result of the 1949 Round Table Conference agreement between Indonesia and Holland.
Point four was directed towards the Dutch government, calling for it to rescind the Netherlands' declaration of war on Aceh in 1873.
Point five called on the Indonesian Government to accept responsibilities for all past atrocities, in particular the killings that preceded the Mass Rally.
Finally, the leaders' declaration stated that if these demands were not met by 26 November, they would call for a general strike throughout the territory from 27 November until 3 December.
Having decided to end the Mass Rally on 14 November, Chairman of SIRA Mohammad Nazar said: 'We feel so bad. We organised a peaceful rally and it is resulting in the slaughter of innocent civilians. We have sent word to the villagers. Please do not try to come to Banda Aceh. We know you want to be here but please do not risk the lives of yourselves and your children. We cannot guarantee your safety as you travel here. [Jakarta Post, 14 November]
Nazar is likely to be formally charged shortly by the police who announced in early November that they had summoned him to appear for questioning as a 'suspect'. He failed to respond to the first summons and is likely to be arrested if he ignores the third summons. The charges relate to a campaign conducted by SIRA at the time of Indonesia's national day, 17 August, when they refused to raise the Indonesian flag but raised the UN flag instead. This was tantamount, said the police, to acting as if Aceh was no longer a part of Indonesia.
Polling on Aceh's future
For ten days, prior to the Mass Rally, from 3 - 11 November. SIRA activists conducted a poll of the entire population to ask people to choose between remaining with Indonesia or going independent. The poll came as the result of months of preparation and involved a network of activists extending down to every village in Aceh. More than 2,750.000 ballot papers were printed. The results were announced on 14 November. They showed the 92 per cent voted in favour of independence, 0.13 per cent voted to stay with Indonesia, and 7.8 per cent abstained.
In announcing the results, the coordinator of the event, Radhi Darmansyah, said it should be taken as a sign that the Acehnese were ready to take part in a legal and democratic referendum, and appealed to the international community to take heed of the aspirations of the Acehnese.
The Centre's 'war against separatism'
A grave political crisis has engulfed Indonesia during the course of 2000. Moves to removed President Wahid from power have gathered pace and could plunge the Republic into a crisis of implosion and disintegration. While this crisis has been fuelled by the bickering political elite, the Indonesian armed forces, the TNI, confront a myriad of problems, disunity within their own ranks, difficulties in confronting the discredited role they played under Suharto and pressure for violators of crimes against humanity to be called to account. One of the key elements in the TNI fightback is to raise the spectre of 'separatism' which can only be crushed, they insist, by military operations in 'troublesome' provinces like Aceh and West Papua. All the emphasis is on keeping Indonesia intact, on stressing that the Republic must retain its unitary structure. Hence the recent practice of calling Indonesia Negara Kesatuan Republic Indonesia, or the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, NKRI.
This paradigm has the advantage of providing the justification for the TNI's continued internal security role to confront the 'separatists', at a time when a key element in the reformasi that inspired the movement to remove Suharto was to establish civilian supremacy over the military and restrict the TNI's role to external defence. 'Waging war against separatism' has now become the army's chief raison d'etre. This explains why the security forces have resorted to such violent methods to quell the pro-referendum movement, as compared with their handling last year's mass rally.
Humanitarian Pause accord under threat
Talks that were to have been held in mid November between Indonesian government representatives and representatives of GAM to consider political aspects of the Humanitarian Pause accord were unlikely to take place because GAM representatives announced that they would not attend because of the security situation and the killing of so many people who were trying to attend the Mass Rally.
While efforts were being made to keep the talks on the road by the Henry Dunant Centre, it became clear that the security forces on the Indonesian side are also unhappy about continuance of the accord. At a press conference in Jakarta, the official spokesman of the Indonesian police said they were 'fed up', and wanted a 'free hand' to launch a crackdown on the rebels. Accusing GAM of using the accord to consolidate their position, he called on the Indonesian government to review it. [AFP, 14 November]
In the midst of a deepening crisis in Aceh where military operations have intensified despite the renewal of the Humanitarian Pause, and the death toll continues to rise, civil society has taken two important initiatives. A three-day Victims' Congress was held in Banda Aceh and a two-day Mass Rally for Peace was convened. [See separate items.]
On 2 September, the Humanitarian Pause was extended by agreement between the two sides, the Indonesian government and GAM, the armed resistance. But far from resulting in a decline in the number of fatalities, no fewer than 166 people were killed in the two months after the extension. The vast majority of those killed were civilians.
The security forces lost 28 men while GAM lost 25. Most of the civilian casualties were killed in the wake of operations by the security forces against villages. In many cases, villagers were seized and remained unaccounted for until their bodies were found. These days, hardly a day passes without one or two people being killed or bodies being found down ravines or by the roadside.
GAM HQ attacked
One of the most serious transgressions of the Humanitarian Pause by the Indonesian security forces was the attack on the headquarters of GAM in Teupin Raya, East Aceh on 24 October. Two members of GAM were killed, including a senior adviser, while no fewer than eight civilians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed during raids in nearby villages. Nineteen civilians disappeared and are still unaccounted for.
Under the terms of the Humanitarian Pause, offensive actions are ruled out, and military operations should be kept to a minimum, so that humanitarian activities to go ahead unimpeded, to assist the tens of thousands who have fled their villages and are now living in squalor in makeshift camps. Such a breach ought to lead to investigations by the Joint Committee on Security Modalities with five members each from GAM and the Indonesian armed forces but there has been no report yet of this happening.
The operation is the clearest sign yet that the Indonesian armed forces are far from happy about the continuance of the Pause. It may reflect their fear that GAM is gaining in popularity and consolidating its military position, as well as frustration with the heavy losses sustained by the security forces, especially Brimob, the special police combat force. According to Cordova, which monitors violations of the Pause, on 23 October, the day before the attack, a large number of troops surrounded two villages, Cot Baroh and Cot Tunong. This may have been a softening up operation to search for people suspected of having GAM sympathies.
At crack of dawn the following day, as local people were completing early morning prayers, dozens of troops arrived in a truck and seven jeeps and surrounded the area in a pincer movement. They opened fired at random, causing people to run in all directions. While the gunfire continued, a number of people were rounded up and forced into a truck. Other troops then appeared from Teupin Raya with a number of people in custody, including two GAM members. Local people saw the two GAM members being roughed up and executed on the spot. Similarly brutal treatment was meted out to the civilians, resulting in eight more deaths. About one thousand villages fled the area in fear of their lives.
Troops to protect government buildings
In a move which seems designed to strengthen the role of the military over civilian affairs, the Aceh chief of police announced that security personnel will be deployed to protect government buildings. He said the aim was preventing attacks on government installations which is crippling the functioning of local government.
One human rights group in Aceh estimates that at least 14 government buildings to have been attacked since the start of the second phase of the Humanitarian Pause. In early November, GAM forces attacked a warehouse of the oil and gas company, Exxon Mobil, during which 16,000 packages of explosives were seized.
But the decision was strongly condemned by Kontras-Aceh, the Commission for Disappearances and the Victims of Violence, whose coordinator, Aguswandi, said it would only intensify the prevailing sense of fear of security forces throughout Aceh, and further reinforce the role of the military; the end result would be to intensify the armed conflict which the Humanitarian Pause is supposed to curb. He called on President Wahid to cut back the number of troops in the province.
The operation bear the name, Operasi I Cinta Meunasah, Operation 'Love the Mosque' I. Sr Superintendant Ridwan Karim, the senior ranking Brimob officer on the Joint Committee for Security Modalities, has denied that his side is engaged in military operations. Claiming that Indonesia 'has never conducted any military operations in Aceh,' he said that the aim of the operation was 'to create a conducive atmosphere'. While claiming that the police were in control of operations, he admitted that the army was also involved, saying that 'this is not against the law'. [Jakarta Post, 1 November]
A fairly frequent occurrence in this 'love-the-mosque' operation is the torching of market places, which results in extensive loss of property and curtailment of economic activity.
The most devastating of these totally unprovoked attacks occurred on 12 October when the popular Ulee Gle Market, Bandardua sub-district, district of Pidie, was razed to the ground. The third largest market in Pidie, Ulee Gle Market was grew to its present size over many years, and consisted of scores of well-built shops and residences (ruko) and street stalls. It had become a vibrant and well patronised centre for the sale of locally-produced commodities from a wide area, as well as household goods and clothes..
At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the peaceful atmosphere was suddenly shattered by the sound of gunfire as military vehicles transporting Brimob troops drove past. Children squatting by the roadside and people in the shops fled in all directions and the shops were hastily shuttered. The troops jumped down from the vehicles, firing into the air, and started kicking down doors and ordering the inhabitants out.
Suddenly, one of the shops was engulfed in flames and within minutes, the entire market was ablaze. In all, 98 shops and 33 market stalls were completely destroyed, as well as a large number of cycles, motorbikes and cars. The traumatised shopkeepers and stall-owners who had stood watching their possessions go up in smoke, were powerless to halt the conflagration. They had lost everything apart from the clothes they were wearing, while the impact on the local economy will be severe and long-lasting.
Brimob officers later claimed they acted in response to a grenade attack by GAM on their vehicles which led to a firefight, but local witnesses strongly denied this. Two people were shot dead during the operation. Two days later, another market-place in Tiro sub-district, also in Pidie, was torched with the loss of 85 shops and homes.[Kompas, 1 November]
The Indonesian justice system is in crisis as former President Suharto's son, Tommy, is on the run from an 18-month jail term for corruption and notorious militia leader, Eurico Guterres, implicated in crimes against humanity in East Timor, is feted as a national hero. A new law on human rights courts has been passed, but may not be effective in dealing with past crimes. Meanwhile, there is growing concern about the UN's lack of commitment to criminal prosecutions in East Timor.
The new law on human rights courts was passed by the House of Representatives (DPR) on 6 November, just a few days ahead of a UN Security Council mission to Indonesia and East Timor. It was evidently pushed through in an attempt to persuade the international community that Indonesia is capable of handling human rights cases and to undermine demands for an international tribunal on East Timor.
Prosecuting past crimes
Much attention was focused on whether the new law would allow for the trial of those implicated in past rights abuses, particularly those associated with last year's violence in East Timor. A recent constitutional amendment - Article 28(I) - granted an amnesty to past abusers by introducing the principle of 'non-retroactivity' into Indonesian law without exception [see TAPOL Bulletin, No 159, Aug/Sept 2000, p. 18].
Nevertheless, Article 43 of the new law gives the President the power, on the recommendation of the DPR, to set up ad hoc courts to try cases involving past crimes, in apparent contravention of the amendment. Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, insisted that Article 43 would be effective despite the amendment though the reason for his confidence is not immediately clear from the legislation.
An explanatory note appended to the new law argues that because ad hoc courts are for the protection of human rights, the restrictions imposed by the 'non-retroactivity' principle must be waived. In support of this argument, it cites another constitutional amendment - Article 28(J)(2) - which reads: 'In executing the rights and freedoms of every person it is necessary to waive any restrictions set forth in law for the sole purpose of guaranteeing the recognition and upholding the rights and freedoms of another person, in the interests of justice and in consideration of moral and religious values, security and public order in a democratic society.'
However, this amendment appears to be capable of waiving restrictions only in ordinary laws, which are subordinate to the Constitution. It is difficult to see how it can restrict another constitutional provision which is absolute in its terms. Article 28(I) reads: 'The right not to be charged on the basis of retroactivity is a basic human right that may not be breached under any circumstances.'
Lawyers acting for military officers accused of crimes in East Timor have already said they will use the non-retroactivity principle to save their clients from prosecution. A further amendment to the Constitution is likely to be needed if past cases are to be successfully prosecuted.
In any event, the highly politicised nature of the process is likely to protect senior officers from prosecution. The Attorney General, Marzuki Darusman, has announced that 22 military and police officers, government officials and militia members accused of human rights violations in East Timor will go on trial in January, but that remains unlikely so long as the military faction and its political allies in Parliament are involved in the decision to set up ad hoc courts, as provided for under the new law. TAPOL has already argued that this should be a judicial process and that decisions on whether to pursue past abusers should not be taken by politicians. The same applies to the appointment of personnel involved in the inquiry, investigation and prosecutions phases, which is also open to political interference under the new law.
It has been suggested by Asmara Nababan, the Secretary-General of the National Commission on Human Right (Komnas HAM), in response to a request for an inquiry into the 1965/66 killings, that Komnas HAM will not in future be able to set up inquiry teams to investigate past atrocities without a request by the DPR to the Government (Kompas, 21 November 2000).
TAPOL would question whether the new law goes this far. There appears to be nothing in the new law which requires the DPR to request an inquiry. The DPR has to recommend the setting up of an ad hoc court to hear a case of gross violations, but Komnas HAM is responsible for carrying out the initial inquiry. The law specifically states that the purpose of an inquiry is 'to identify the existence or otherwise of an incident suspected to constitute a gross violation of human rights...' (Article 1(5)). Unless an incident has been identifiedas a gross violation by a Komnas HAM inquiry, the DPR has no apparent authority to intervene.
In any event, it is difficult to see how the DPR could make an objective and properly-informed decision on whether to set up an ad hoc court without the findings of prior inquiry by Komnas HAM (and a subsequent investigation by the Attorney General as required by the law). It would be extremely regrettable if the DPR were to assume an effective veto over any inquiry into past violations.
Improvements don't go far enough
Otherwise, the DPR appears to have taken account of comments on the draft law made by TAPOL and other NGOs. Some welcome improvements have been made, but the law retains several defects. In particular, the DPR has taken the extremely regressive step of adding the death penalty as a possible sentence for certain crimes. It goes without saying that the death penalty must have no place in human rights legislation.
The new law includes an improved definition of 'gross violations of human rights'. There is now a requirement that crimes against humanity must be committed as part of a 'broad or systematic, direct attack on civilians'. In the explanatory notes to the law, a 'direct attack on civilians' is defined as 'an action taken against civilians in follow up of a policy of an authority or policy related to an organisation'. In theory, this should lessen the danger of crimes being passed off as ordinary crimes committed by soldiers and junior officers and increase the likelihood of investigations exposing the responsibility of senior officers and officials for rights violations. The definition of crimes against humanity now broadly follows that in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ('the Rome Statute'), as does the definition of command responsibility. The fact that the DPR has followed international standards set out in the Rome Statute is encouraging.
The law includes new provisions on arrest and detention. These would appear to allow for a maximum period of 120 days (90 days for the investigation phase and 30 days for the prosecution phase) before a detainee is brought before a judge. In its 1999 report on Indonesia, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions noted that such delays were inconsistent with the right to a fair trial. However, another impediment to a fair trial, which would have allowed courts to conduct a trial in the absence of the accused, has been removed.
Despite these technical changes to the law, the process of bringing perpetrators of past human rights violations to justice is still dependent on a deeply flawed judicial system.
A complete overhaul will be required to ensure that professional, independent and impartial legal personnel are available to carry investigations, prosecutions and trials.
An example of the problems inherent in the current system is revealed in a report presented to the UN Security Council mission by a group of NGOs in West Timor. They allege that those arrested by the Indonesian police for the murder of three UNHCR workers in Atambua [see TAPOL Bulletin, No. 159, Aug/Sept 2000, p. 16] are 'stand-ins' and that the police have failed to interview a key witness who could provide evidence as to the identity of the real perpetrators.
The necessary changes to the justice system will take many years to complete. In the meantime, the arguments in favour of an international tribunal for East Timor remain irrefutable notwithstanding the passing of the new law.
UNTAET fails to fulfil its justice mandate
The demand for an international tribunal was repeated by the East Timor NGO Forum during its meeting in Dili with the Security Council mission on 13 November. The NGO Forum is alarmed that the prosecutor for serious crimes recently announced he has had to abandon plans to investigate the ten most serious crimes last year and confine his attention to just four cases due to a lack of resources. Without an international tribunal, there is little prospect that the chief perpetrators will face trial, the Forum says.
It cites the April 2000 memorandum of understanding between UNTAET and Indonesia regarding co-operation in legal, judicial and human rights-related matters, and points out that no transfer of suspects between jurisdictions have taken place as allowed for under the memorandum and none is expected.
The continuing delays in conducting exhumations and investigations are likely to result in evidence being lost, destroyed, damaged or becoming unreliable with the result that successful prosecutions will be impossible. Already UNTAET has been forced to release suspects who have confessed to murder and rape because of a lack of resources to pursue investigations.
The NGO Forum concludes that UNTAET, by not providing sufficient resources for investigations, is failing to carry out its mandate to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The problem appears to be not a lack of money, but the way in which UN money is allocated. The special crimes unit is run by the shadow East Timor government known as the East Timor Transitional Administration (ETTA) which is under-funded and under-staffed, lacking basic necessities, such as interpreters, transport and computers. Meanwhile the resources available for reconciliation and a possible truth and reconciliation commission, which come under the general UNTAET budget, are much greater.
A British police officer said: 'The majority of staff came here on the understanding that they would be investigating serious crimes to prosecute those responsible for attacks last year. While we accept that there is always going to be competing interests for resources, we are surprised that we have been here for six months and still, on a daily basis, we are fighting for basic equipment in order to function...we've had to beg steal and borrow anything we can do to ensure we finish the work.' [South China Morning Post, 14 November 2000]
While the NGO Forum also seeks reconciliation, it argues that bringing the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice is an essential element of reconciliation. It calls on the Security Council to instruct UNTAET to reallocate substantial resources to criminal investigations. TAPOL fully supports the NGO Forum in this demand.
For the first time since 1969 when the UN General Assembly shamefully struck West Papua off its agenda after a fraudulent Act of 'Free' Choice, the issue of West Papua's right to self-determination was raised at the Millennium Summit of the General Assembly held in September.
Two South Pacific countries, Vanuatu and Nauru, gave their full support to the need for an act of self-determination.
Prime Minister Maautamate B Sope of Vanuatu made a strong plea to world leaders to right the many wrongs of the UN 'so that we can embark on the new millennium with a clear conscience'. He went on to say:
'As the chairman and an active member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group which is committed to promoting and safeguarding the Melanesian identity, values, traditions and rights, the Republic of Vanuatu calls on the United Nations to review the political and legal basis of its own undertakings in the 50s and 60s in relation to the fundamental rights and the fate of our Melanesian brothers and sisters in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular in West Papua.'
He condemned the so-called Act of Free Choice in West Papua as 'a mockery to the fundamental principles on human rights and self-determination clearly enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations (which) cannot continue to turn a blind eye on its own past failures which has led to three long, agonising decades of injustice, tragedy and guerrilla warfare in West Papua. It is both morally and legally wrong to do so. The United Nations has competent agencies and institutions, such as the Committee of 24 or the International Court of Justice, which should be tasked to look into this or give an advisory opinion. The Netherlands which was the former colonial authority, in particular, should recognise that they have some responsibility in helping to resolve the unfortunate situation of West Papua in a peaceful and transparent manner.'
The President of Nauru, Bernard Dowiyogo MP, speaking on 7 September, for the first time at the General Assembly following his country's entry into the UN in 1999, referred to three UNHCR personnel killed in Atambua, West Timor, on the previous day and expressed support for the people of East Timor through their final step to nationhood:
'On the other hand, our Melanesian brothers and sisters in West Papua are still striving to break the imposition of colonial domination and foreign control, following the so-called act of free choice in 1969. It is imperative that West Papua be given the rightful opportunity of a democratic referendum of its indigenous people, to exercise at last their right to self-determination. The United Nations cannot stand by and witness the destruction of the people of West Papua. ...Nauru would therefore support a UN resolution that permits the people of West Papua the choice of self-determination.'
Papuan leaders attend S Pacific forum
Inching forward in getting their case recognised at an international level, eight West Papuan activists from the Papauan Presidium Council were given seats at the annual South Pacific Regional Council held this year in Kiribati. The West Papuans were included in the official delegations from Nauru and Vanuatu, making it possible for them to rub shoulders with the heads of governments in the Pacific which include Australia and Aoteroa (New Zealand).
Their presence at the meeting resulted in the question of West Papua being discussed for the first time in this important international forum. While it was obvious from the start that any attempt to have the summit take a position on the question of West Papua's right to self-determination would not be acceptable to the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers, John Howard and Helen Clarke, they were unable to prevent the meeting from discussing the human rights situation and the recent acts of violence.
The final communiqué expressed 'deep concern about the recent violence and loss of life in West Papua' and called on both sides 'to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue and consultation' and to uphold the human rights of the residents of the province.
It was at the insistence of John Howard that the communiqué underlined Indonesia's position as 'the sovereign authority' in West Papua. The result was welcomed by Franzalbert Joku, international affairs moderator of the Papuan Presidium Council, as being a better outcome than they had expected. 'I was concern,' he said, 'that West Papua was going to be kept off the agenda.' As one Australian newspaper commented, 'The Australian Government is accepting the inevitability of a heightened focus on West Papua while standing by Indonesia's sovereignty.' [Australian Financial Review, 30 October]
Signs of that heightened focus has come in several forms. One was a memorandum of understanding signed between Jacob Rumbiak, a West Papuan independence leader, and Greg Sword, vice-president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which calls for a UN referendum on the future of West Papua. Greg Sword, who is also president of the Australian Labour Party, said the Australian trade union movement wants the UN General Assembly to examine Indonesia's claim over the independent territory of West Papua, which is so close to our northern shores. ACTU spokesman Alan Matheson said that the handover of West Papua to Indonesia 'has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and spiralling human rights abuses.' [The Australian, 25 October]
A week earlier, church leaders from Australia and West Papua issued a joint statement calling for an 'East Timor-style independence ballot to stop the violence in West Papua'. The Australian churchman endorsing this statement was Anglican Bishop Hilton Deakin, known for many years as an outspoken supporter of East Timor's right to self-determination. The West Papuan churchman was Pastor Martin Luther Wanma who was attending an Asia Pacific regional conference of religious leaders in Melbourne. [AFP, 19 October]
At the same time, Australia's Greens Party attempted to table a motion in the Senate saying: 'The Senate supports the right of the West Papuan people to raise the Morning Star flag', but the move was blocked by other parties in the Senate. Senator Bob Brown of Tasmania who had tried to table the motion later announced that he had set up a new organisation, Parliamentarians for West Papua.